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Simultaneous measurements from human teeth of photothermal radiometric (PTR) and luminescence (LM) signals induced by an intensity modulated laser have been performed to assess the feasibility of detecting deep lesions and near-surface cracks, to examine the effects of varying enamel thicknesses, the presence of fillings, and stains on the surface of teeth. A commercial dc luminescence monitoring instrument (DIAGNOdent by KaVo) was also used to examine a set of teeth for comparison purposes with PTR and LM. PTR amplitude signals from carious regions and from thin enamel were higher than those from healthy regions and thicker enamel. A crack produces a peak in the PTR amplitude scan, as well as a sudden change in the luminescence amplitude at the corresponding point. At low frequencies (5 Hz), the PTR amplitude showed high sensitivity to a deep (about 2 mm) lesion, while at high frequencies (700 Hz) it was more sensitive to surface cracks. It was concluded that by selecting proper modulation frequencies of the laser, measurements of PTR and LM signals could be used as a dental diagnostic technique with a small, inexpensive, low-power (≪30 mW) semiconductor laser as a light source emitting in the optical window range of hard tissue (650–1000 nm). © 2003 American Institute of Physics.